4 For 4: Virginia Casino Cities Move Forward Following Certified Election Results

Posted on November 17, 2020

With local electoral boards certifying the election results, four Virginia casino cities will move forward on their projects.

With each city’s successful casino referendum on Nov. 3, Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth residents all approved the construction and development of casino-resorts. (Richmond residents will get their chance to vote on a casino in 2021.)

A COVID-19 outbreak has delayed the release of Virginia’s state-wide certified results. However, local electoral boards certify the results of local ballot measures, including this election cycle’s casino referenda. They completed the counts last week.

As a result of those certified general election results, the four VA cities and their preferred casino partners can take the next steps toward casino openings in the next few years.

Certified election results for Virginia casino cities

Voters in all four cities comfortably approved the casino measures.

In fact, despite needing a simple majority to pass, three of the four cities approved the measures with at least two-thirds of the vote.

However, Norfolk (65.1%) came awfully close to reaching that threshold.

Here are the official 2020 election results:

As previously reported, reaction to Virginia casino voting results was mixed.

The projects range from $300 million to $500 million each. Voters were swayed by the promise of new tax revenues, jobs and a boost in regional tourism, among other benefits.

What’s next for VA casinos

Now that election officials have certified the results, the casino operators can take their next steps.

As spelled out in Virginia law:

“If a majority of those voting in a referendum held pursuant to § 58.1-4123 vote in the affirmative, the eligible host city shall certify its preferred casino gaming operator and submit such certification to the Department within 30 days.”

The Virginia Lottery will oversee all casino gambling in the commonwealth. The regulatory body must develop and complete casino regulations by April 7, 2021, according to the legislation that the Virginia General Assembly laid out earlier this year.

Once the VA Lottery publishes the casino regulations, casino operators can formally apply for licenses. Then, the lottery has up to 12 months to review the application and conduct background and financial checks before issuing its decision. However, lottery officials have suggested those decisions probably won’t take a full year to make.

Most casinos will likely open in late 2022 or 2023. However, Hard Rock could open a temporary casino in Bristol well before the other cities. A temporary Hard Rock Casino and Resort Bristol would begin welcoming guests in late 2021 before the full resort is operational, likely in 2022.

Each casino will also have the opportunity to launch brick-and-mortar sportsbooks on property. However, a number of online-only sportsbooks could begin accepting wagers from Virginia residents by January – well before the casinos get their chance to take sports bets.

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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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